Covid 19 What We Learned During the Lock-Down
Covid 19 - Things we have learned during the Lock-down.
Two weeks on some new facts have come to light.
While the basic situation had not changed much the latest figures in the USA, UK and even here in South Africa show that relaxing the lockdown restrictions too soon can lead to huge problems and countries that have not enforced the wearing of masks have been hit hard in the last week or two. The fact that leaders at all levels have in many instances largely ignored the science is mind blowing and impossible to understand.
It is now 95 days since South African President, Cyril Ramaposa, effectively declared a national disaster and following advice from the medical world, put all South Africans into a strict lock-down. Businesses, educational institutions, entertainment, recreational facilities and religious meetings were stopped, and people were told to stay at home. Travelling, except for essential transportation of goods was prohibited, with road blocks set up to arrest any guilty of violating these restrictions. In essence you were locked in to the place you found yourself. Only medical, food producers and providers and security personnel were allowed out under strict conditions that included wearing face masks and social distancing where possible. You could not go out of your yard to exercise or walk your dog. The army supported the police in enforcing these drastic measures that to some degree helped to “flatten the curve” and allowed the government to get hospitals ready for the expected outbreak of the virus.
So for the first couple of months under level 5, 4 and 3 of the lock-down, we here in South Africa faced challenges that we had never faced before. This tested our resilience in serious ways. Many were alone at home, while others were locked up with family members. In many informal settlements groups of people who lived in the same room, or rooms, were together for what must have felt forever. The only reason you could leave your house was to go and buy groceries at the nearest shop or collect you pension or social grants. Funerals could only be attended by a limited number of people and with a travel permit issued at the closest police station. All our borders were closed.
During this time many people in the country learned many things about themselves and other people that they would perhaps never have found out otherwise.
- The huge disparity between the “haves” and the “have not’s” was dramatically illustrated. For many in South Africa this gap of prosperity, while as a brutal reality existed, was relegated into the pigeon hole “I don’t really want to know this”. Now the fact that many did not have running water to wash their hands in, as the medical experts so glibly advised, became apparent. One of our cabinet ministers suddenly wanted to buy a water tank for his grandmother who lived in a distant rural area. Being locked into a comfortable house with DSTV and a roomy garden was hardly a hardship, but locked into a room shared with four other migrant labourers obviously was another story.
- Parents really got to know their children. For many the responsibility of taking care of their children had largely been delegated to the pre-school, school and after school teachers as they went about earning a living. Now they were stuck together for 7/24 and the challenge can only be imagined by those who of us who did not enjoy this new-found pleasure! “What do I do to keep my kids happy?” This often being in a shack with very few, if any, resources.
- Finding some time to think, rest and develop some new skills. Most of us rush from place to place and from project to project on a daily basis so as to survive in this hectic world. Now everything has come to a stop. You can only listen to so much news or music, or read or watch so much TV if you are lucky enough to have that luxury. Libraries were closed so reading material was at a premium. With us having a garden, we managed to find some long lost seed and have become farmers, growing our own greens. Cooking has also taken up a lot of time and creative effort. We don’t throw away as many leftovers as we used to, instead they all go into the compost heap. This is a very limited option for many who are struggling to find enough food to feed themselves and their family. After all, for many their income had simply disappeared. The government promised a huge bail out for many but this assistance was easy to declare but difficult to provide. So only a low percentage of the 42000 water tanks purchased by government and promised to rural communities, have made their way to where they are needed.
- The good, the bad and the ugly:
4.1 The Ugly: we have all been horrified by the violence that we have seen on TV over the past 81 days. It has become more real somehow, and one does not have to leave South Africa to become aware of police and military brutality. While crime statistics in general have gone down, gender based violence has increased. Imagine the family locked up together in a confined space and how easily the situation can lead to frustration, anger and unfortunately abuse of others. In some households quality time together may have been a blessing, but in many it must have put tremendous strain on already fragile relationships.This has lead to a perfect storm when the protests started and more infections were going to take place. Then the hot summer weather lead to people flocking to the beaches on the USA, UK and Brazil. Here in South Africa beaches are still closed.
4.2 The Good: on the other hand there have been many instances of people sacrificing their own health and possessions to help those in need. The health workers must be admired greatly. Many people have even donated time to working in essential services and many have donated money and goods to be used to help those in desperate need. The example of many famous people who have set up organizations to help with food and other essential services has been heart warming. Many ordinary/extraordinary people have done the same in their community and so the basic goodness in human hearts has had an opportunity to flourish. It is only the really selfish person who has done nothing to help their neighbour at this time. If you have not looked for opportunities to help others, shame on you!
4.3 The Bad: Unfortunately we have also seen the bad side of human life graphically illustrated in many instances. While it has been great to see so many taking a stand against injustice on many different levels in cities throughout the world, some have used the opportunity to loot and destroy. In South Africa many schools have been robbed, vandalized and destroyed, making the return of students planned for last week problematic. With modern technology of cell phone video capability, what happened in the past was often simply swept under the carpet. Now abuse can no longer be ignored as it becomes apparent on social and news media.
- For us personally as a retired 70 something couple: We have felt at times pretty frustrated being locked up. The soup kitchen my wife organizes had to shut down at present due to governmental regulations. My teaching, preaching and counselling came to a sudden stop, but with the help of media I have still managed to do some things. We miss our family but entered into the world of Zoom with a virtual family dinner. Another Zoom dinner planned soon. Exercise has been continued with walks around the house and converting our lounge into a small, limited usefulness gym. I have practiced my cooking and can produce pretty well what we call our own “wimpy breakfast” occasionally. Miss a walk at the beach that is only about 5km away but out of bounds – don’t quite understand why? Have helped where we can with donations of food and money. After all, our immediate travel plans have come to a sudden stop. Listened to a lot of music, read a lot of books - some on Kindle and others in my library. I have collected books at every opportunity in the past. What a blessing that has been. Worked on some framing of photo’s for future selling. Watched some TV that we would not have watched before. Tried to limit news watching to some extent and missed my sport watching that I am somewhat addicted to. But as the Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said: “football is only a game!” So life goes on for us in the “leafy suburbs” as one presenter referred to the areas where the “haves” live. We miss our regular worship and Bible studies, but continue our own personal ones on a daily basis – a great blessing.
- So we pray for a better world post Covid 19. Perhaps some of the lessons we have learned will make a difference, but somehow I wonder. After all humans are humans and so the good, the bad and the ugly will remain. May the good however, overcome the bad. We just need to all play our part!